Environmental guidance for your business in Northern Ireland & Scotland

What is hazardous/special waste?

What is hazardous/special waste?

Waste is defined as 'hazardous waste' (in Northern Ireland) or 'special waste' (in Scotland) if it is classified as 'hazardous' in the European Waste Catalogue (or List of Wastes). Generally, waste is hazardous/special if it, or the materials or substances it contains, are harmful to human health or the environment.

Examples of hazardous/special waste

Almost all businesses produce some hazardous/special waste. Typical examples of this waste include waste:

  • asbestos
  • chemicals, eg brake fluid and printer toner
  • electrical equipment with potentially harmful components such as cathode ray tubes - eg computer monitors and televisions
  • fluorescent light tubes and energy-saving light bulbs
  • vehicle batteries and other lead-acid batteries
  • oils (except edible oils) - eg engine oil
  • refrigerators containing ozone-depleting substances
  • solvents - eg aerosols
  • pesticides.

Check if your waste is hazardous/special

Check the European Waste Catalogue (EWC) to find out if a waste is hazardous/special waste.

The EWC is a list of waste types, with six-digit codes for all types of waste. Hazardous wastes' codes are marked with an asterisk (*). In Scotland, 'hazardous waste' is called 'special waste'.

There are two kinds of hazardous waste entry in the EWC, absolute hazardous entries and mirror hazardous entries:

  • 'Absolute Hazardous' entries – the waste is always hazardous/special waste, whatever the concentration of the dangerous substances in it. These wastes are marked in the List with an asterisk (*) For example:

07 07 07* halogenated still bottoms and reaction residues A

  • 'Mirror' hazardous entries – the waste is considered hazardous/special waste if the hazardous substance(s) it contains are above a specified threshold concentration(s) For example: .

17 05 03* Soil and stones containing dangerous substances M

Mirror hazardous entries have an alternative paired non-hazardous entry (or entries). For example:

17 05 04 soil and stones other than those mentioned in 17 05 03

And there are also Absolute Non-Hazardous entries – the waste type is always non-hazardous and they do not have a link to a mirror hazardous entry. For example

03 01 01 waste bark and cork

Check your safety data sheets

If you receive materials or chemicals at your site, they should be accompanied by a safety data sheet. The information on the safety data sheet can help you decide if your waste is hazardous/special, provided the chemicals have not changed due to being used or mixed with other substances.

If you are unsure whether your waste is hazardous/special, you should contact the NIEA in Northern Ireland or SEPA in Scotland, or a specialist waste management contractor.

Further information

Find licensed waste sites to recycle or dispose of business waste in your area

NIEA: Hazardous waste guidance (Northern Ireland)

SEPA: Special waste guidance (Scotland)

Waste Thesaurus: SEPA guidance for coding waste An alphabetical list of waste types with their corresponding EWC codes

Return to Hazardous/special waste landing page

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